Skip to content

What exactly is an ‘extra’ or a ‘background artist’? What do they do?

What exactly is an ‘extra’ or a ‘background artist’Extras are unsung heroes of countless films, TV series and promotions. Without groups of extras meandering in the background, it would be hard to bring alive scenes such as busy high streets, church services, parties or indeed anything that involves crowds to create ambiance and atmosphere.

An extra may be on screen for only a few minutes, but that might equate to an entire days work as scenes are repeated filmed until it meets the exact requirements of the director. Although never mentioned in the credits, extras play an important role in creating a realistic background. Many extras take on simple roles performing normal activities such as drinking coffee in a café, mowing a lawn, doing the shopping, strolling along a street. Productions with a historical theme could require extras to work as crossing sweepers, maids, shop assistants or chimney sweeps. Speaking parts are very rare, at the most a couple of words.

The roles undertaken by extras are incredibly varied. You may not know until you arrive exactly what role you will be playing since it can depend on availability of costumes that match your size. There can be a lot of waiting around while your scene is being rehearsed, as well as constant repetition of the same actions.

Patience is definitely needed when you are working as a movie extra – but it can provide fantastic work experience for anyone with a taste for drama. Out of work actors often take on roles as extras simply to gain experience seeing how films and TV series are produced. Watching and learning from lead characters as well as behind the scenes activities can provide a vast array of information.

Hire extras for your next production

When companies need extras they go to companies like ours. We maintain a large database of potential extras available in every region of the UK. Often extras are needed at short notice, especially for special promotions which is why it is important to keep your profile up to date, telling us of your availability and any extra skills you might possess. It might be that a producer wants an extra who can ride a horse, perform some steps of a dance as well as walking along a street. Having the information immediately at hand means we can contact you instantly.

It also means that companies can be confident that they will get the reputable, reliable extras they need to make their production a success. All it takes is a quick phone call or email. Contact us now for more information.